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Abramoff Scandal
Bush seeks to link Jack Abramoff to Democrats


President Bush defended the Republican Party on Wednesday amid a series of corruption scandals in Washington, D.C., attempting to link disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff to Democrats.

In an interview with Fox News, Bush made his first public comments about Abramoff, a Republican insider who raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for the party. Although the president said he was "not all that familiar with a lot that's going on up there on Capitol Hill," he charged that Abramoff spread the money around in Washington.

"But it seems like to me that he was an equal money dispenser, that he was giving money to people in both political parties," Bush told Fox's Brit Hume.

Bush also came to the defense of Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas), the former House majority leader who has been indicted in Texas for allegedly violating election laws and who has been linked to Abramoff. When asked whether he thought DeLay was innocent, he responded "Yes, I do."

Yet the president had no kind words for another Republicanwho was indicted in a corruption scheme and resigned after pleading guilty to taking millions in bribes. "I feel Duke Cunningham was wrong and should be punished for what he did," he said, referring to former congressman Randy Cunningham of California. "And I think anybody who does what he did should be punished, Republican or Democrat."

Despite Bush's views, the scandals in Washington have touched Republicans so far. In addition to the indictments of DeLay, Cunningham and a former White House official who represented tribes, Michael Scanlon, a former Republican aide to DeLay, pleaded guilty last month in a scheme to bribe another Republican congressman and defraud tribes out of tens of millions of dollars.

And the majority of Abramoff's money went to Republicans, not Democrats. According to a Washington Post analysis, Republican politicians and political action committees received 63.7 percent of the $5.3 million in contributions made by Abramoff's former tribal clients and associates from 1999 through 2004.

News reports also indicate the Department of Justice is looking at the actions of a half of dozen Republicans in the House and the Senate who accepted money from Abramoff, whose former aides went to work for Abramoff or whose spouses received work as a result of their connections to Abramoff.

Two top GOP operatives -- Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform and Ralph Reed, a key Bush fundraiser -- took millions from Abramoff's tribes as well, the Senate Indian Affairs Committee's investigation has shown.

As the committee closes its probe and DOJ investigators sharpen their cases, Republicans like Bush have sought to bring Democrats into the picture. The first major target has been Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-North Dakota), who accepted $67,000 in donations from Abramoff's former clients.

Dorgan, the vice chairman of the Indian Affairs Committee and the top Democrat on the Interior Appropriations subcommittee that controls Indian funding, has lashed out at the campaign. "It's not surprising that from the sleazy world of those who defrauded the Indian tribes, we have seen bogus charges against those of us who are doing the investigating," Dorgan said last month at a press conference at the United Tribes Technical College in Bismarck, North Dakota.

Dorgan has since returned the money to four tribes who had hired Abramoff.

Some Republicans have turned their sights on Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona), the committee chairman who initiated the Abramoff probe. They have accused him of using the investigation to go after people who opposed him in the 2000 presidential primary against Bush. McCain has ridiculed the charges and has since said he expects "lots" of indictments of people who were involved.

The committee held five hearings on the matter, four of which were held with McCain as chairman and Dorgan as vice chairman. The first occurred under former chairman Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-Colorado), who was equally hard on Abramoff and his associates before retiring at the end of 2004.

"For 400 years, people have been cheating Indian tribes, so you're not the first one," Campbell told Scanlon at a November 17, 2004, hearing. "You're the problem, buddy, with what is happening to American Indians."

Special Report With Brit Hume:
Transcript: Bush Talks With Brit (December 14, 2005)

November 17, 2005, Hearing:
Video | Exhibits

November 2, 2005, Hearing:
Video | Exhibits | Witness List / Testimony

June 22, 2005, Hearing:
Video | Exhibits 1 | Exhibits 2 | Witness List / Testimony

November 17, 2004 Hearing:
Video | Exhibits | Witness List / Testimony

September 29, 2004 Hearing:
Video | Exhibits | Witness List / Testimony